Thursday, 28 July 2011

Scavenger Hunts

Internet Scavenger Hunts for readers are one of my favourite types of contests.
Whereas they do not generally challenge participants intellectually, they are fun and playful. Also they have an element of competition which engenders a sense of achievement at having collected all the required information. Competition is a fundamental human drive and, in my opinion, the satisfaction at having ‘won’ something through effort, no matter how minimal, is likely to be greater than if a gift is simply given away.
Giveaways have their place in anybody’s marketing arsenal, of course, and the strategy of free downloads being pursued on Kindle would indicate that this is a valid ploy. On an individual level, it seems to me, however, that it is more valid for authors with an existing backlist. For newer authors, like me, although giveaways might generate goodwill and hopefully reviews, hunts actively direct traffic to one’s site that might not otherwise visit.
Do they increase sales?
As with any marketing activity, it is difficult to quantify, but they certainly raise your profile with a potentially new audience.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

What's in a Name?

When we hear a name do we automatically make assumptions about the person behind it based on our own stereotypical prejudices?
I know I am guilty.
For instance, there are some names for which I have an inherent aversion based on my previous experience of people of said name (Deirdre does it for me!) Conversely, there are other names which always rouse a positive response (Liz, for example). There is no logic in this as individuals have no control over their birth names and to attribute personality characteristics on the basis of a name is unsound. Yet many of us tend to do just that, especially on first encounters.

Fortunately, as authors we have the option to influence our image by adopting a nom de plume, but how does one choose a pen name?

It is interesting to look at some of the pseudonyms adopted by famous personalities:
Elkie Brooks = Elaine Bookbinder
Michael Crawford = Michael Dumbell-Smith
Doris Day = Doris Mary Ann van Kappelhoff
Bob Dylan = Robert Zimmerman
Judy Garland = Frances Ethel Gum
Cary Grant = Archibald Alexander leach
Elton John = Reginald Dwight

So what images do the names convey? For me, an old sounding name like Ethel conjures an image of a granny knitting socks (sorry Judy Garland) whereas Elkie conjures an image of an outgoing, carefree individual. The surnames Bookbinder and Zimmerman strike me as honourable rather than dynamic and as for Reginald Dwight... is this really the rock star to have rocked the world?

Clearly image has played an important part in the decisions of these personalities to adopt stage names and as writers we must be equally conscious of the impact of our names on our target market, too.